Her eyes raw from crying, her hands trembling, Sharon Coyne crouched over in a chair, waiting for word that, somehow, her 14-month-old daughter, Jaci, had been found alive.
But the word would not come.
A crisis worker at the First Christian Church knelt beside the woman and clasped her hand.
“I can’t tell you whether your little girl is alive or not,” said the volunteer, Denise Glavin. “There might be word tomorrow morning. Or maybe tomorrow night. Or maybe the day after. I am so sorry.”
For the parents of children at the day-care center of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the unspeakable horror of the explosion gave way Wednesday evening to the unspeakable agony of waiting, almost certainly for the worst.
Some 41 children were enrolled in the second-floor day-care center. But after a car bomb tore into the building, “the day-care center is totally gone,” said Dr. Carl Spengler, who was heading one of the triage units. Toys and games were scattered amid broken glass and other debris on the street.
A YMCA across the street also had a day-care center, and the scene there “was really terrible,” said Kevin Cox, a state representative who was a half-block away when the explosion occurred.
“Babies were crying and screaming, with blood and plaster and insulation on their bodies.”
Later, an emergency worker, Heather Taylor, said she had tagged the feet of a dozen children at the morgue. Two were burned beyond recognition.
Throughout the day, the lobby of the First Christian Church served as a waiting room for people with loved ones who had not been taken to hospitals. There, chaplains and other volunteers embraced the heartsick.
Some parents and grandparents paced nervously. Others sat still as stone. A few prayed.
All of them had been weeping.
John Cole clutched the shoulder of his wife, Sandy, who clutched a wadded tissue. Their foster children, Aaron Coverdale, 5, and Elijah Coverdale, 2, were among those unaccounted for after the blast.
A scene from Wednesday morning gripped Cole, when he had helped his wife buckle the children into the car seat and said goodbye.
“As the car rolled away, Elijah turned his head around and just waved, waved goodbye,” said Cole, as tears spilled down his face. “He was waving and I was waving back, until we couldn’t see each other anymore.
“That picture will always be in my mind.”